12 January - 20 June 2016

Can nicotinamide riboside, a form of vitamin B3, stop cell/organ ageing?

A mouse study published in Science has tested a vitamin’s ability to help the internal organs of aged mice regenerate their cells. Zhang et al. note that adult stem cells are essential for tissue maintenance and regeneration, however during ageing the regenerative capacity of certain organs (such as liver and kidneys) and muscle including the heart diminish.

A mouse study published in Science has tested a vitamin’s ability to help the internal organs of aged mice regenerate their cells.  Zhang et al. note that adult stem cells are essential for tissue maintenance and regeneration, however during ageing the regenerative capacity of certain organs (such as liver and kidneys) and muscle including the heart diminish.  Previous research has indicated that nicotinamide riboside (NR), a substance which is close to vitamin B3 and a precursor of NAD+, can increase metabolism. NAD+ is a molecule that plays a key role in mitochondrial function.

To investigate how the regeneration process deteriorates with age, Zhang et al. investigated the role of mitochondrial function in stem cells by comparing muscle stem cells from young and aged mice to examine how these cells aged.  Using publically available gene expression data the scientists identified the mechanisms involved in ageing, reporting that under normal conditions these stem cells reacted to signals sent by the body and regenerated damaged organs by producing new specific cells.  In the aged stem cells, the scientists report that the function of the cells were reduced and note a number of biomarkers and pathways which demonstrated this.   Zhang et al. state this was further confirmed by fact that in the aged stem cells, there was a loss of “mitochondrial membrane potential and a reduction in cellular ATP concentration.”  ATP is used to transport chemical energy within cells for metabolism.

To investigate whether this process could be halted the scientists fed 2 year old mice (and advanced age for lab mice) and young mice (3 months old) either a chow diet supplemented with NR or chow alone for 6 weeks.   The aged mice fed the control diet were found to have lower NAD+ concentrations in the muscle stem cells compared to the young mice fed the same diet.  Those treated with NR, both young and old, had increased NAD+ concentrations in stem cells.  While muscle from aged mice contained fewer stem cells, supplementation increased the stem cell numbers and muscle regeneration in both young and old mice. They confirmed their results by using a muscle stem cell marker known as PAX7.  Zhang et al. also performed mice muscle function tests including maximum running time and distance and grip strength and found supplementation enhanced the muscle function in the aged mice but not the young mice. NR supplemented mice also lived slightly longer, an average of 868 days compared to 829 for the control group.  The authors state “although the life-span benefit is small it was obtained with the NR treatment commencing late in life at 24 months.” 

One of the researchers is quoted in a press release as saying: “This work could have very important implications in the field of regenerative medicine.  We are not talking about introducing foreign substances into the body but rather restoring the body’s ability to repair itself.”

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com 

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